On this day June 16, 1983 - William ‘Wild Bill’ Sackter dies in Iowa City at the age of 70.

In 1974, Barry Marrow, a film screenwriter from Minneapolis, relocated to Iowa City to join the University of Iowa's School of Social Work. Accompanying him was Bill Sackter, a 60-year-old man who had spent 44 years in institutionalized seclusion. Through their friendship, Sackter discovered a renewed sense of purpose. Over the following eight years, he became a beloved figure in Iowa City.

Sackter, affectionately known as 'Wild Bill,' captured the hearts of locals with his inspiring journey. His remarkable story reached a national audience when CBS aired a made-for-TV movie about him in December 1981, transforming him into a cherished national hero.

You can read about Barry Morrow here Today in Iowa History: The Oscar-Winning "Rain man" Movie Connection.

Who was "Wild" Bill Sackler

Wikipedia says: Bill Sackter was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1913, the son of Sam and Mary Sackter, Russian Jewish immigrants who ran a grocery store. When Sackter was 7 years old, his father died from complications of the Spanish Flu. It was 1920, and Bill was having difficulty learning in school, and after taking a mandatory intelligence test, he was classified as "subnormal". The State of Minnesota determined that he would be a "burden on society" so he was placed in the Faribault State School for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic. Sackter remained there for 44 years, never again seeing his mother or two older sisters, Sarah and Alice. He was diagnosed as intellectually disabled,although diagnoses performed decades later would prove his intelligence was near normal. He was never taught to read or write or even how to use a telephone.

98.1 KHAK logo
Get our free mobile app

In 1964, when new light was being shed on the treatment of the mentally ill and disabled, Sackter was moved to a halfway house and worked odd jobs to support himself. He eventually became a handyman at the Minikahda Club, where filmmaker Barry Morrow and his wife, Bev, befriended him. Morrow began slowly to make life a bit more comfortable for Bill, getting him new dentures and becoming his friend. Morrow became his guardian, and when he took a post at the University of Iowa, Sackter followed him to Iowa City and became the sole proprietor of Wild Bill's Coffee Shop on the campus, in which he excelled.

He received recognition

Sackter was named Handicapped Iowan of the Year in 1976, attending a ceremony in Washington, D.C. President Jimmy Carter gave him special recognition in 1979.

The television movies and beyond

The television movie "Bill," which aired in December 1981, portrayed the story of Bill Sackter, starring Mickey Rooney in the titular role. Rooney's performance earned him both a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award, while the movie itself received an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Special. A sequel titled "Bill: On His Own," featuring Helen Hunt, followed in 1983. 

Interestingly, Barry Morrow, the screenwriter behind "Bill," drew inspiration for the character of Raymond Babbitt in the film "Rain Man" from individuals he encountered. Initially influenced by his meeting with Kim Peek, a savant with a unique neurological condition, Morrow also incorporated elements of Bill Sackter's life into the character. Subsequent revisions to the script refined Raymond Babbitt as an autistic savant, distinct from the initial conceptualization. 

Where to 'Glamp' in Iowa in 2024

Want to have a camping experience without having to sleep on the ground? There are plenty of options here in Iowa! Here are 12 places that you can go "glamping" in Iowa this summer:

Gallery Credit: Courtlin

The Highest-Rated Cedar Rapids Restaurants on Yelp (June 2024)

We have a ton of great local restaurants in Cedar Rapids, but which ones are the best of the best? To determine the top 15 restaurants in Cedar Rapids, we looked at Yelp reviews for businesses that are within city limits. Here are the highest-rated restaurants as of June of 2024:

Gallery Credit: Courtlin

More From 98.1 KHAK